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The University of Southampton

One of the world's most powerful supercomputers arrives at the University

Published: 14 March 2018
Iridis 5
New supercomputer arrives at the University

Researchers and students from across the University are benefitting from the next-generation of supercomputers as Iridis has come on line.

Iridis 5, the newly upgraded system, is over four times more powerful than its predecessor and capable of performing well over a quadrillion calculations per second.

In November 2017, Iridis 5 joined the elite of the world’s top 500 supercomputers

Over the past decade, the University has seen a 425 per cent increase in the number of research projects using Iridis’ services, from across multiple disciplines such as engineering, chemistry, physics, medicine and computer science.

Dr Sandy Wright, Principal Research Engineer at the University said: “In the past 10 years, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) has become a perfectly valid commercial activity, reducing the need for physical experimentation. CFD gives as good an answer as the wind tunnel, without the need to build models, so you can speed up research whilst reducing costs. Iridis 5 will enable us to get more accurate results, whilst looking at more parameters and asking more questions of computational models.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Syma Khalid, Professor of Computational Biophysics at the University: “Our research focuses on understanding how biological membranes function – we use HPC to develop models to predict how membranes protect bacteria. These membranes control how molecules move in and out of bacteria.  We aim to understand how they do this at the molecular level. The new insights we gain from our HPC studies have the potential to inform the development of novel antibiotics. We’ve had early access to Iridis 5 and it’s substantially bigger and faster than its previous iteration – it’s well ahead of any other in use at any University across the UK for the types of calculations we’re doing.

The new supercomputer has:

  • A peak performance of 1,305.6 Teraflops
  • more than 20,000 Intel Skylake cores
  • two PetaBytes of high performance storage
  • more than five PetaBytes of deep storage for research data.

All of the above makes it substantially bigger and faster than its previous iteration.

‘We’re purposefully embracing more researchers and disciplines than ever before at the University, which brings a lot of competing demands, so we need a more agile way to provision systems,’ says Oz Parchment, director of iSolutions, at the University of Southampton. ‘Users need an infrastructure that’s flexible and easily managed, which is why Iridis is the ideal solution, particularly as we’re now embracing more complex research disciplines.’

Oz continues: ‘The University of Southampton has a long tradition in the use of computational techniques to generate new knowledge and insight, stretching back to 1959 when our researchers first used modelling techniques on the design of Sydney Opera House. Data and analysis of that data, using computational methods is at the heart of modern science and technology and, in order to attract the best world-class researchers we need world-class research facilities.’

The new supercomputer was designed, integrated and configured by high performance compute, storage and data analytics integrator, OCF, and will support research demanding traditional HPC as well as projects requiring large scale deep storage, big data analytics, web platforms for bioinformatics, and AI services.


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